2003 MMT 100 Wild Flower Report

By Gary Knipling

Editor's Note: One of the great traditions of VHTRC events are the wildflower reports that Gary Knipling makes. To us, they are just pretty flowers (though some are pretty small and don't look that pretty to me). But to Gary, in his Yoo-Hoo crazed world, they are things of beauty. Since the Web brings this report to people all over the world, many of whom don't know Gary, the VHTRC has provided a Glossary to help you translate Gary into English.

Credits: Photo of Gary with the Yoo-Hoo is courtesy of Steve Pero. All other photos Anstr Davidson.

Glossary for Translating Gary into English
body glide an early rub[You don't want to know]
Bastard Toadflax1. Non-existant flower
2. As close to swearing as Gary ever gets
John Dodds1. Gary's Biographer
2. The ying to Gary's yang
HokieDid not get invited to join the ACC
Yoo-HooWhat a Hokie drinks when Knob Creek is not around
Scratching in the leavesWhat bears and Hokies do in the woods
GI problemsCauses a lot of leaf scratching
I must admit I was a little excitedI needed physical restraints and sedation to calm me down
I was happy to see his pacer, ValI was hot for Val
Gave [Val] directions how to get to Gap CreekWas hitting on Val
Thinking about John having Val to get him over Short MtnDamn, next year I am bring a date for Short Mtn
Gut monsterBoy, you should have seen and heard Deb puke
Section from Edinburg to Woodstock was runableYou could walk it with only moderate difficulty

© VHTRC 2003. No portion of the Gary-English Glossary may be used without written permission.

Every runner has his individual story, but with the MMT it’s neat how the stories with fellow runners overlap. Some parts of the stories are fun to remember; others you try to forget. My story overlaps with many supportive and generous people—crew, volunteers and runners.

It has been a beautiful spring in our area because of all the moisture in the ground from our winter snowfall and spring rains. The wildflowers I observed along the MMT course were beautiful and numerous. Derrick Carr after marking trail all day on Friday, told me about some flower sightings and the abundance of the pink bush-like wild azaleas. I asked him if they were thick enough to be able to smell them in some places. All of the runners found out for themselves on Saturday and Sunday.

In the past years, I didn’t need to use a light Saturday morning before daylight. But with the fog and drizzle this year, I needed my thumb-sized LED 1 light to get to the first terrace of Buzzard Rock. I was with Todd Braje, a youngster starting his first 100 miler, during this initial climb. When I stopped at the place where you can usually look down into the Passage Creek Gorge to body glide an early rub, I wished Todd luck but fully expected to see him come back to me during the course of the run. I didn’t see him again until the awards ceremony when he was recognized for his 16th place finish. Congratulations Todd!

Wildflowers were abundant right from the start as I had counted six species in the glow of my light before daylight. My first unusual flower was just after Milford Gap where I had an “incomplete” sighting of the elusive Bastard Toadflax. This is a rather simple plant with small flowers. Usually when I find this wildflower, I look up and …”poof” there stands John Dodds! Saturday morning John wasn’t there, but Jim Blaakman, Christopher Calfee and Jeff Heasley were there to verify the sighting.

I didn’t initially have a crew, but I ended up claiming one. Even though I only saw Tom Corris once out on the course, I was close enough to him all weekend that I became “adopted” by his crew, fellow Hokie Bob Phillips. Starting at Habron Gap, Bob handed me a cold Yoo-Hoo at each aid station. Where I had drop bags I would trade Bob my warm Yoo-Hoo for his cold one which was then, in-turn, cold for me at the next aid station. Thank you Bob for your tremendous help.

Russ Evans and I had a side bet on his finishing time this year. When he hadn’t caught up to me by 4:00 PM at the Visitors Center, I was beginning to believe I would win the bet. Russ was one of four runners to pass me while I was “scratching in the leaves”at the top of Bird Knob rocks. When I caught up to the other three within ten minutes and Russ was no where to be seen, I knew he was moving well. Russ had a tremendous run and ended up winning our wager by nine minutes.

Gary at EdinburgAt 211 East, Jaret Seiburg was finally getting over his GI problems and caught up to me at the aid station. We crossed Rt 211 in a strung out group of six runners headed toward Gap Creek #2. Randy Dietz and Rick Kerby moved on ahead after going past the bottom of the Waterfall trail. That left me leading Jaret and the Kerns brothers up the narrow trail along James’ Creek (named after James Moore at the ’99 MMT). Jaret claims that I almost caused a four runner pile up when I stopped to admire the beautiful wild Columbine on a steep slope below the trail—had it happened, it would have served him right for tailgating me in such prime wildflower habitat, especially right at dark. I must admit I was a little excited as I had not seen Columbine on the MMT course before this year. Somehow avoiding an accident, we all proceeded up to the top of Scothorn trail when I needed to stop to adjust my runderwear. Suddenly I was alone, at dark, and my flashlight three miles away at Gap Creek. Out came my trusty LED 1 light and just as I was starting down Scothorn I could see a light coming back up the trail. It turned out to be my brother, Ron, who back tracked from Crisman Hollow Road to see how I was doing. Ron has an MMT buckle from ’97 when we ran together from start to finish. As he found out, I wasn’t well at all at the time. I was definitely in a “down” time but his presence was a big boost. He got me down to the road and then he went to Edinburg Gap to back track the course to meet Keith and helped pull him down off Short Mountain into Anstr and Brenda’s aid station. Ron was a big help to Keith and me when we needed it the most.

When I got into Gap Creek, the party was still going strong. I did my best to fit in and was having a great time until “bouncer” Mike Bur kicked me out. I knew I had had a good time because somehow I ended up wearing Vicki’s long sleeve Eagle Run shirt out of there. (Vicki voluntarily loaned me the shirt “off her back” since I didn’t have a long sleeve until my next drop bag.) My good buddy John Prohira came into Gap Creek just as I was leaving. (I was honored to have finished with John at BRR.) I was happy to see his pacer, Val, there at Gap Creek since I had just met her Friday evening and had given her directions how to get to Gap Creek.

Gary gets Yoo-hoo from another HokieFrom Gap Creek to Moreland to Edinburg was a tough time for me. I was alone the entire time and was not doing well. I kept thinking about John having Val to get him over Short Mountain. All I had was my fading flashlight. Finally I got into Edinburg Gap. As I plopped into a chair, I told Anstr and Jim Cavanaugh that I had forgotten how painful and agonizing the MMT could be, but that my memory was being unmercifully refreshed. My body needed rebuilding. In past years, at this place, Brenda’s potato soup had done the trick—this was going to be the test. Brenda served up my standard order of a full cup with two ice cubes and Bob handed me the cold Yoo-Hoo. By the time I finished my second cup of soup there was a party of runners brewing. Chairs were in demand with Deb paced by Mike, John paced by Val, Tom (and his bionic right knee) paced by Linda and rookie Ryan Henry all in the soup line. After I got my new light, Deb, John and I were together going up the long climb after Edinburg. Near the top, the “gut monster” got Deb and the sound wasn’t pretty. I had told John that 80% of the 8.2 mile section from Edinburg to Woodstock was runnable. Brenda’s soup started kicking in for me and as I tried to prove my statement to John, I found I was moving better but I was alone again---except for the whip-poor-wills.

Events I remember from there to the finish are:

  • Passing Steven McClung, shirtless and laying in the leaves trying to shake GI problems; pacer Bob was with him.
  • Getting to Powell’s Fort and learning that Keith, who had been top ten all day, spent 1 ½ hours in a blanket cramped up and recovering (and waiting for me) before limping on in to finish 15th.
  • Stuart Kern having a terrible hip cramp that made him crippled just after leaving Powell’s Fort—he hobbled back to Powell’s but had to DNF after going 90 miles.
  • Brother, Kris Kern, catching me going down into Elizabeth Furnace and we talked about Hardrock plans.

As Kris and I approached Elizabeth Furnace, we saw Randy Dietz just leaving. I had last seen Randy thirteen hours previously. Randy, Kris and I were together going up to Shawl Gap. We were all looking at our watches wondering if we could finish under 30 hours. We knew we were on the bubble, but with mutual encouragement we moved faster than if we were alone. Some felt the pain of the descent down from Shawl Gap more than others and we got spread out. When we hit the paved road and came within sight of Skyline Ranch, we were like three ducklings without a mother. Somehow, we got back together coming across the final field and finished “in a row” in 29:55.

Through the ups and downs, rain and fog, highs and lows, mud and rocks, wind and calm, clouds and night, and pain and glory, the wildflowers that I remember were as follows:

  • Wild Azalea (white/pink), the official flower of the MMT, you all saw and smelled them mostly on the high ridges
  • Bluets (blue/lavender), common, grow just 3-4”off ground in clusters
  • Star Grass (yellow), common, sometimes growing right in the middle of trail
  • Violets (many shades of blue/white), common
  • Blackberry (white), common down low along the roads
  • Pussytoes (white), common, small white cottonballs at end of arching stems 6-8” long
  • Field Mustard (yellow), common down low
  • Garlic Mustard (white), common in lower woodlands
  • Rattlesnake Weed (yellow), fairly common
  • Mountain Laurel (white/pink), just starting to bloom, Habron Gap,Bird Knob
  • Deerberry (white), Habron Gap, Bird Knob
  • Beardtongue (purple), Buzzard’s Rock, Rt 613
  • Bowman’s Root (white), Rt 613
  • Buttercup (yellow), Rt 613
  • Moss Phlox (lavender), Buzzard’s Rock, Bird Knob, Bear Wallow trail
  • Pink Lady Slipper (pink), Milford Gap, most seen on Bird Knob
  • Wild Geranium (blue), Rt 613, Duncan Hollow, Powell’s Fort
  • May Apple (white), Rt 684 just before Habron Gap aid station
  • Speedwell (lavender), Kern’s Mt
  • Lyre-leaved Sage (blue), Rt 684
  • Dwarf Iris (blue/yellow), Bird Knob, Bear Wallow trail
  • Vetch (blue), several species down low along roads
  • Daisy Fleabane (lavender rays w/ yellow center), Rt 613, Rt 684
  • Golden Ragwort (yellow), Rt 684, Waterfall area
  • Sundial Lupine (purple), FDR 274 only on west side of road
  • Yellow Wood Sorrell (yellow), Indian Grave trail
  • Ground Ivy (purple), Rt 613, Camp Roosevelt
  • Rue Anemone (white), Rt 613, Waterfall area
  • Cinquefoil (yellow), Waterfall area
  • Spring Beauty (pink/white), Habron Gap aid station
  • Dame’s Rocket (blue/pink/lavender), Visitor’s Center
  • Early Saxifrage (white), Waterfall area, Powell’s Fort
  • Sweet Cicely (green), Habron Gap aid station, Rt 684
  • White Baneberry (white), Veatch Gap, Habron Gap trail
  • Bladder Campion (white), FDR 274
  • Wild Columbine (orange/red), along James’ creek

Thank you seems inadequate to express the gratitude and appreciation I have to Ed Demony and his many VHTRC helpers and volunteers. You all make it possible for the runners to feel and smell and hear and see nature at her best (and worst) in the Massanuttten Mountains in Spring.

Happy Trails,

Gary (#61)

MMT 2003 Report Page

Kristen Kern, Randy Dietz, and Gary Knipling finish the MMT

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